Paris scorches in historic drought as heatwave intensifies in Europe

Bloomberg London | Updated on July 24, 2019

In Paris, temperatures are forecast to hit 42 Celsius. File Photo   -  Reuters

Temperature records have already been broken in parts of the country, and Paris is forecast to hit 42 Celsius

Paris is in its driest in almost 150 years and temperatures across Europe are reaching extreme levels, scorching fields and shutting power plants.

As temperatures climb across Europe, peaking on Thursday in Paris and London, the effects of extreme weather are becoming clearer. Electricite de France SA cut its nuclear output because river water is too warm to cool plants, power prices have jumped and farmers are frustrated by another bad spell for crops.

This summer has already seen raging wildfires in Portugal and Spain, falling water levels on Germany’s Rhine River and irrigation restrictions in France. The extreme conditions follow last years drought that pummelled crops, and has heightened attention on the environment amid concern over climate change.

In the east German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Christa-Maria Wendig is worried these once-rare droughts are becoming common. She plans to give up planting rapeseed in the coming months because of the dry weather and the heatwave stunted her ripening corn crop. “Our ponds are empty and the meadows withered,” she said.

Day-ahead electricity prices in France have jumped to a five-month high. Temperature records have already been broken in parts of the country, and Paris is forecast to hit 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit).

Electricite de France has reduced output at two nuclear reactors at its St. Alban plant by as much as 55 per cent in the coming days due to warm river water. The company, which produces about three-quarters of France’s power, already halted two reactors at Golfech this week, as the Garonne river is too warm for cooling the plant. EDF has said it will prepare nuclear plants to operate in more severe heatwaves in the coming decades amid a changing climate.

In agriculture, the heatwave is having the biggest impact on corn fields, which are in a key growth stage. Yields will drop sharply if beneficial rains don’t arrive soon, said German grains handler Agravis Raiffeisen AG. Winter wheat and barley are already being collected and escaped most of the bad weather.

Some farmers in France and Germany may harvest corn early as silage to build up their animal-feed supplies for the winter, rather than collecting the crops as grain to sell on the market, said Laurine Simon, an analyst at consultant Strategie Grains. Forage stocks are already low after last years drought, and Paris corn futures are up about 10 per cent since late May.

Conditions are critical for farmers unable to irrigate in France, where water restrictions began two months earlier than last year, said Cedric Benoist, who has been able to water his fields of grain and other crops south of Paris thanks to groundwater reserves. Ratings for corn in France, one of the EUs top growers, have declined since late June.

In the east German state of Brandenburg, where farmers are contending with the third straight summer of drought conditions, industry representatives have called for emergency aid from state and federal government. While the dry spell isn’t yet as severe as the one seen in 2018, farmers are still expecting smaller-than-usual grain harvests.

There’s no question of us relaxing, said Henrik Wendorff, the head of Germany’s Brandenburg LBV farmers association. The kind of bumper harvest that would have enabled us to compensate for the harsh losses of the previous year wont be there.

Published on July 24, 2019

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